Mirabeau Bridge in Paris

The Mirabeau Bridge across the Seine was built in the 1890s and was considered a remarkable technical achievement at the time. It connects Auteuil on the Right Bank (16th arrondissement) with Javel (15th) on the Left.

The bridge was named after the Count of Mirabeau (1749-1791), a rebellious aristocrat whose role in the early stages of the French Revolution remains controversial to this day. (On the Auteuil side a street and a Métro station are also named after him.)

Mirabeau spent much of his adult life in prisons for various reasons. All you loyal readers of my post on the Château de Vincennes might recall that Mirabeau was a prisoner there from 1777 to 1782. Earlier, he was imprisoned on the Island of If off the coast of Marseille — a prison that was later made famous by the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870).

Looking upstream from Mirabeau Bridge

Just upstream from Mirabeau Bridge is the Eiffel Tower, but also the Statue of Liberty at the tip of Swan Island.

Looking downstream from Mirabeau Bridge

Downstream we have a typical river scene with barges for transporting building materials — still one of the essential functions of the Seine.

Mirabeau Bridge from Quai Louis Blériot

Mirabeau Bridge (Le Pont Mirabeau) is well known in France because of the poem of the same name by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 – 1918), a sad and deceptively simple poem about the end of a love affair. His lover, the painter Marie Laurencin (1883-1956), was living in Auteuil at the time (in Rue Jean-de-La-Fontaine), and this was the bridge he often crossed to visit her before moving to Auteuil himself (Rue Gros) in 1909.

Le Pont Mirabeau

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante
L’amour s’en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l’Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

There is a recording, made in 1913, of Apollinaire himself reading the poem.

Le Pont Mirabeau has been set to music a number of times, and has been sung by Léo Ferré, Yvette Giraud and Marc Lavoine, among many others.

The poem has often been translated into English, for instance by the American poet Richard Wilber.

Statue on Mirabeau Bridge

On Mirabeau Bridge there are four statues by the sculptor Jean-Antonin Injalbert (1845-1933). The statue in my photo is entitled “The City of Paris” and shows a young woman with bare arms but wearing shoulder- and breast-armor, holding a battle axe in her left hand. The expression on her face is presumably meant to show determination, but to me she just seems to be pouting. In any case, the really spooky thing about this sculpture (aside from the hose coming out of her posterior) is that the lady’s face looks very similar to the photos of Marie Laurencin when she was in her twenties and involved with Apollinaire. (Am I the only one who has ever noticed this?) The similarity is certainly just a coincidence, however, since Marie Laurencin was only thirteen and was just an unknown schoolgirl when the statue was being made.

Jean-Antonin Injalbert, by the way, was the sculptor who later made the monument to the philosopher Auguste Comte for the Place de la Sorbonne. Still later he sculpted the four lovely caryatids on the façade of the Gobelin Gallery and towards the end of his life he even made a statue of the Count of Mirabeau as a fiery orator that is on display in a far back corner of the Panthéon. (You can see this statue in my post Mitterrand and the Panthéon if you scroll down far enough.) Mirabeau was the first person to be buried in the Panthéon, in 1791, but also the first person whose body was removed, in 1794, because of suspicion that he had been in cahoots with the king all along.

Location, aerial view and photo of the Mirabeau Bridge on monumentum.fr.

My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on bridges across the Seine in Paris.

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